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Ex-Katrina workers getting backpay

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division has resolved a lawsuit against Houston-based Universal Project Management Inc. and Irving, Texas-based Fluor Enterprises Inc. for failing to pay $1million to 154 workers in overtime compensation in the wake of Hurricane Katrina as required by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

“Workers who help rebuild our communities and secure the safety of local residents following natural disasters should be fairly and legally compensated for the work they perform,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. “This department is committed to securing their wages and overtime.”

The department filed a consent judgment against Fluor Enterprises Inc. and obtained a default judgment against Universal Project Management Inc. in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division, following an investigation by the Wage and Hour Division in Houston which found that the companies paid straight time only for all hours worked. The settlement agreement has resulted in payment urricane workers. Payment of back wages is ongoing.

Fluor Enterprises, primarily engaged in engineering, procurement and construction, entered into a contract with the Federal Emergency Management Agency following Hurricane Katrina. As general contractor, Fluor Enterprises subcontracted with Universal Project Management to inspect temporary housing trailers for displaced residents who lost their homes in the aftermath of the hurricane. Fluor Enterprises has denied the company had any liability.

“Some employees involved in the inspection of trailers during the hurricane recovery worked up to 84 hours in a week without the required overtime compensation for hours worked over 40 in a workweek,” added Cynthia Watson, regional administrator for the Wage and Hour Division’s Southwest Region.

The FLSA requires that covered employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 for all hours worked, plus time and one-half their regular rates of pay, including commissions, bonuses and incentive pay, for hours worked beyond 40 per week. Employers must also maintain accurate time and payroll records.

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